DARK Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Fentanyl
Fentanyl rose to prominence as an alternative analgesic to morphine nearly 50 years ago; today, fentanyl has re-emerged as a dangerous recreational substance. The increased potency and analgesic effect of fentanyl are advantageous in the treatment of pain but are also responsible for the rise in unintentional opioid overdose deaths. In response to this crisis, fentanyl, its analogues, and even precursors are under heightened regulatory scrutiny. Despite this controversial history, derivatization of fentanyl has resulted in numerous synthetic analogues that provide valuable insights into opioid receptor binding and signaling events. In this review, the impact of fentanyl on chemical neuroscience is shown through its synthesis and properties, manufacturing, metabolism, pharmacology, approved and off-label indications, adverse effects, and the responsibility it has in the opioid epidemic.